Sunday, June 26News That Matters

Man City 1-2 Lyon: City reduced to 'a barely recognisable rabble'

Maxwel Cornet puts Lyon in front

In the first half of their shock Champions League defeat by Lyon, I described Manchester City as being a “rabble” – and they really were that bad.

When I said that, just after they had gone 2-0 down, I meant they were a team that appeared disorganised and did not look like they were together, which was also conceding possession unnecessarily.

Normally that is the state that City reduce other teams too, but at Etihad Stadium on Wednesday night the brilliant side we saw last season was barely recognisable.

Why? I think it was down to a combination of things, but it is important to remember this is a bad result for City, but not a catastrophic one.

They have got plenty of time to recover and qualify comfortably, which I think they will do. In fact, I would be staggered if they don’t still win Group F.

But this result should act as a reminder that it does not matter how good they are, if their standards drop then they will get beaten in this competition.

Snapshot of Champions League Group F table: 1) Lyon, 2) Hoffenheim 3) Shakhtar Dontesk 4) Man City

The Etihad can be electric, but not this time

I don’t know why City were so lethargic at the start of the game, but it was maybe because they underestimated the opposition.

Lyon have had some exceptional sides over the past 10 to 15 years while I have been covering the Champions League, but on paper this was not one of them. They were facing a team everyone thought they would beat, myself included.

Yes the atmosphere was flat in the opening minutes but you cannot blame the fans for that, because it is normally the team who get them going.

Look at the way Liverpool started their game against Paris St-Germain at Anfield on Tuesday night, by tearing into them and getting the crowd on their feet straight away.

I have seen that happen at Etihad Stadium before, in fact I have been there many times when the atmosphere has been absolutely electric.

I was there the day they won the Premier League against QPR in 2012, for example, and it was unbelievable, so it can happen.

But instead of the fans sparking the players, or vice versa, there was a bit of expectancy present against Lyon, as if everyone thought, “Someone will make something happen and we will get this done”.

They were wrong.

Individual errors spread through the team

The Manchester City team that faced Lyon

The first 10-15 minutes of the game were pretty unconvincing by City but things got worse instead of better.

Midway through the first half they had none of their usual intensity in their play, and were so sloppy in possession they were making mistakes that encouraged the French side to come into the game.

What I witnessed out there was something I have been through many, many times as a player myself, where individual errors spread through the team.

You find yourself giving your team-mates a rollicking to try to sort things out – and then, all of a sudden, you get the ball and do something stupid.

Even their most consistent players were at fault, and Fernandinho made errors that led to both Lyon goals.

I was singing his praises before kick-off when I was talking about how important he is to this City side because they don’t have anyone else like him to play in midfield, but this game was probably the poorest I have seen him play – he was passing the ball to thin air.

Did Pep’s absence play a part?

Pep Guardiola in the stands at Etihad Stadium

I am sure another factor in City’s sluggish performance was Pep Guardiola’s absence from the touchline and the dressing room because of his suspension that meant he had to stay in the stands.

You cannot pin the blame for the defeat on City’s assistant coach Mikel Arteta, who stood in for his boss, but if you have got a manager as good as Guardiola and he is not there, you are going to miss him aren’t you?

As a player, it is a different vibe completely when your manager is not at the game, for whatever reason, because there is not the same weight behind whatever is being shouted at you.

When you have got your manager standing there, particularly a demanding one like Pep, then whenever you look over to the bench you will see him jumping up and down – as I am sure Guardiola would have been if he had been down there watching that.

You know you have to respond to whatever he is saying because otherwise he will be on your case the whole time, and if you keep ignoring him he will drag you off.

Man City assistant coach Mikel Arteta

Predictable passing patterns do not hurt Lyon

City did improve after the break, but they seemed pretty short of ideas when it came to breaking Lyon down.

“Predictable” was the word I used on 5 live, because they allowed Lyon to keep re-setting their defensive position and remain strong and solid at the back.

That is not how you would usually describe City’s attack – normally the only predictable thing about them is the relentless nature that they continue to attack you.

But this time they moved the ball far too slowly and never looked like disrupting Lyon’s defence.

City would get to a point, out wide and about 40 yards away from the Lyon goal, but then the ball would stop and move sideways to the other flank.

So it was to and fro, to and fro, with the occasional cross into the box, and it was all very easy to defend against.

Very rarely did City manage to disrupt Lyon and, once they went 2-0 up, the French side looked reasonably comfortable.

The tough examination they were probably expecting never came.

Bernardo Silva scores for Manchester City against Lyon

Premier League teams should follow Lyon template

I was one of those to write Lyon off before the game, but they ended up fully deserving their victory.

They played more incisive football than City and also looked more dangerous on the counter-attack.

City were limited to having lots of possession midway in the Lyon half, but without really finding a cutting edge apart from when Sane got behind their defence to set up their goal.

Lyon were well organised and also had a structure that meant that when they went 2-0 up, they did not panic and they never looked like they were hanging on at all really.

They were also full of confidence going forward, which is an approach more Premier League sides should take against City.

I saw Wolves do something similar in August, and they also looked dangerous.

If you just try to stay in the game at 0-0 against City and try to run the clock down, then more often than that you are just going to get turned over.

But if you have got a threat yourself and believe you can score or, at least, create chances – then you can make things very difficult for them, especially if, collectively, their players have another night like this one.

Andy Townsend was speaking to BBC Sport’s Chris Bevan.

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